Ride On St. Louis, Inc.
Ultimate “Style” was donated to Ride On St. Louis in 2015, when his previous owners felt he was no longer useful to them. This is often the case with many horses at our center. Although Style has an impeccable pedigree (out of Hi-Fashion Camaar by Wayne Newton’s Ultimate Star, with his ancestry traced back to dessert bred Arabians in the 1800s) most people wouldn’t have guessed it judging by the sparse mane and tail and the dull, drab coat that hung over his underweight and under-muscled body. I could easily count his ribs bones and see every protruding angle in his fore and hind end. He displayed constant anxiety behaviors, evidenced through the self-soothing and persistent urge he had to nervously lick anything around him—gates, fencing, lead rope, his bit and even up and down my arm when I was near him. Style was rarely relaxed, especially around people. Like all of the horses at our center, Style went through an acclimation period, which we aim to make as stress-free as possible. There are no expectations or rigid agenda; all learning is dictated by the horse. When he had put some healthy weight on, adjusted to his new herd and the routine at Ride On St. Louis, it was time to help Style out with some conditioning and exercise to aid in his mental and physical health and ultimately see if he would enjoy spending time helping children and small adults with disabilities someday.
Style was a different type of challenge for me. Around the same time, I had suddenly lost my riding partner, a Morgan gelding named Johnny, with whom I had been advancing nicely. Still mourning the loss of Johnny it was hard for me to find a connection with Style and re-embrace the basics needed to help this very green, nervous horse. The first several times we lessoned together, I simply sat in the middle of the arena and just waited for him to even have the slightest bit of interest in me. Step one was building a relationship and earning his trust. I came to find that he is a very perceptive little guy and is constantly taking in information around him. So at first, when we were in the arena he would trot over to the gate and call to his friends, and there I sat patiently waiting and observing. Using behavior shaping and positive reinforcement he learned after a few days that it was rewarding and even interesting to engage with me. Soon, when we entered the arena at liberty, instead of trotting off to the gate, Style would walk the arena once making little mental notes of everything around him (water trough, ground poles, mounting block, ect.) and then return to me to see what behaviors would earn a reward (free leading, picking up objects, standing next to the mounting block, or anything he wanted to try). One behavior we had worked on shaping was coming when he was called. I’ll never forget the first time I walked to the pasture and asked for his recall. He was out grazing at the far end of a two-acre pasture, I gave him the cue we had been working on but honestly didn’t expect a response. It was an environment we never practiced in, with many distractions (including herd mates and forage), and there was a much greater distance between us. However, to my surprise his ears perked up, he lifted his head and looked toward me. He took off towards me like a scene from a movie. It was one of the most joyful and rewarding moments in my life. Here was this little gray horse, who wanted nothing to do with me at first, now flying towards me and nickering a hello while the rest of the herd went about their grazing at the other end of the pasture. It was truly one of the best feelings I’ve ever experienced.
Style and I continued to learn many things at liberty, it was something we both loved, and he gained the ability to process new situations with curiosity and the freedom to contribute to and influence his environment and our time together. He’s a very thoughtful horse and incredibly sharp. We also began more groundwork on long lines, really focusing on relaxation and rhythm. His body was changing and in three months he had nicely rounded muscles, a better topline, balance and tempo, and was fit enough to begin slow work under saddle. It was great to see how much he transformed and even better to know that he was enjoying himself through the process.
Style began serving children with disabilities in a small capacity soon after. He has an extremely large movement and was able to provide more input to advancing clients who needed to challenge their improving core muscles. He was patient with those still learning and practicing their horse handling skills and was a favorite among volunteers for this reason, and excelled in unmounted activities programs, as well. Everyone loved the little gray horse with the cute, well-defined little ears.
Now retired from service, Style remains in our care through our Always Home retirement program. Style would greatly appreciate the added nutrients offered through Platinum Performance Supplements to compliment his specific diet and needs as a senior horse. This added support would be a wonderful addition to his health management, which currently includes bodywork therapies, strengthening exercises, and of course his regular dental, veterinary and farrier visits. Everyone at Ride On St. Louis, and especially myself, would love to see how Style could improve with additional dietary supplementation. Thank you for consideration.
Relationship of Nominator to Nominee
I have been volunteering in a variety of roles with Ride On St. Louis since its inception in 1998 and joined fulltime staff in 2011. I met Style in 2015 when he was donated to the organization. Since then I have been privileged to develop a dear and devoted relationship with Style as his primary trainer and caretaker. -- BriAnn Session